WHEN Eni, Italy’s oil major, this week revealed a return to profit in the fourth quarter and a long-term commitment to keep the barrels flowing, there was much to cheer. Three years on from Claudio Descalzi’s appointment as CEO, Eni has made spectacular oil and gas discoveries even as its peers retrenched amid the oil-price slump. Sanford C. Bernstein, a research firm, says only half in jest that it is “evolving into an actual oil company”.
But a cloud hangs over the firm, which is 30% state-owned—and over Mr Descalzi (pictured) personally. He is caught up in an Italian probe into alleged corruption in a deal Eni struck in partnership with Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria, just as he is seeking reappointment as CEO in April. The company’s response to the scandal, especially its treatment of independent board members, raises questions about its commitment to good corporate governance.
In 2011, Eni and Shell jointly paid $1.3bn for a huge offshore oil block, known as OPL 245, which has more than 9bn barrels of probable reserves. Over $1bn of this flowed to a shell company. That firm, Malabu,…Continue reading
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